THERESA May was last night locked in an extraordinary stand-off with her Brexit Secretary over whether to tie Britain to EU customs rules indefinitely.
David Davis’s open revolt against the PM came after she refused his demand to define a precise time limit for a backstop solution to keep the Irish border open.
Getty – Contributor The PM refused to define a precise time limit for an Irish border solution
Rumours swept Westminster that Mr Davis was on the verge of resignation, after months of bitter duelling with the PM’s chief Brexit advisor Olly Robbins.
But the 69-year-old ex-SAS reservist told fiends last night he will stay and fight the “people trying to box me in”.
The ugly row sent Brexit tensions in the Cabinet to boiling point, with one senior figure saying it’s “never been as bad as this.”
Senior Leave-backing ministers reluctantly agreed that the UK would stay closely aligned to the Customs Union if no other solution to the Irish dilemma could be agreed with the EU.
Times Newspapers Ltd Mr Davis disputed rumours that he was on the verge of resignation
But while Mrs May wants it to be only a temporary solution she will not pin down an end date, while Mr Davis insists the backstop only lasts until 2022.
Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson joined the bitter revolt yesterday to also demand No10 answer a series of questions.
He wants to allay fears the UK is being tricked into a Hotel California-style Brexit of never actually leaving Brussels’ control.
A high stakes showdown now beckons today, after Mr Davis insisted the decision go to a full meeting of the PM’s 11-strong Brexit war committee at 12.30pm this afternoon.
Rex Features Boris Johnson also joined the bitter revolt yesterday
While No10 insisted the backstop proposal – dubbed a Temporary Customs Arrangement – had been agreed by the committee already, Mr Davis said instead: “The detail of this is being discussed at the moment.
“It’s for a Cabinet committee to decide on that, and if they conclude then you will see it tomorrow. But it’s up to them to decide.”
On whether he will walk out of the Cabinet, the Brexit Secretary added: “That’s a question I think for the Prime Minister”.
But Mrs May was said to have already despatched the proposal’s blueprint to Brussels to be presented to EU negotiators today.
Hitting back at Mr Davis, a senior No10 source said: “We have to put something to Brussels that is negotiable, not something that will be thrown out by them immediately.